Every October, I cram six pairs of shoes and clothing for two weeks into my suitcase and head to Murrieta, Californa for three nights and three days of refreshment. Don't say a word about the extra clothing. All women know you must pack for both mood and weather.
Today I'm back from our annual Calvary Chapel Pastors' Wives Conference. The suitcase awaits unpacking, but my thoughts are not on the reorganization of my closet this morning. Instead, I'm enjoying the after-glow of a brief respite with 900 of my closest sisters.
Our bonds deepen every year as we share more tears together, more worship, more prayers, more understanding of the God who called us and who loves us. And every year, I think the exact same thought when I arrive at the gate and hear one of the 600 Bible students say, "Welcome to the conference. God bless you." I think, This must be what heaven will be like. There's no other time when I know that every heart I pass and every smile that greets me belongs to someone who loves Jesus as I do.
Today, I'm missing heaven.
But I know that God called me away for those sixty-some hours so that I could get a refilling of the passion and joy I'll need for the coming year. There's still work to be done. God's heaven is ahead somewhere; my Murrieta-heaven-on-earth will be waiting next October; but while I pass the time waiting for both, I've been called to a task. We were reminded of that calling and that responsibility by every speaker this year. "Love the sheep. Tend the sheep. Feed the sheep."
What a privilege. To serve God is enough; but ours is a God who not only calls us into service, but blesses us while we serve and rewards us when our service is ended. Sandy MacIntosh (wife of Pastor Mike MacIntosh) introduced our Bible passage in the first session:
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
--1 Peter 5:1-11 NKJV
We were reminded by Sandy, June Hesterly, Cheryl Brodersen, and Jean McClure that the ministry brings suffering. It's the nature of tending God's people, pure and simple. But the Chief Shepherd knows our suffering and uses it to perfect, establish, strenghten and settle us. And one day -- maybe one day soon -- He will appear again. The God of all grace will bring with Him a crown of glory, and we will forget the suffering in an instant.
May He come today.